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How It's Made: Hanky Panky

During college, I worked at a small SoHo boutique filled with beautiful clothes I couldn't afford—with or without my employee discount. So whenever I saved up to buy something, it was a really big deal. Even if it was just a neatly rolled thong from the fishbowl of Hanky Pankys sitting on the cash wrap.

Those lacy underpinnings soon became my most frequent purchase. Not only were they only things I could regularly indulge in without having Cheerios for lunch all week, but even the skimpiest versions were comfortable. Which a lot of similar, more expensive underwear really is not. And honestly, aside from, like, root canals and food poisoning, what's less pleasant than itchy, wedgie-inducing panties in the middle of your workday?

Although I was my own biggest customer, I sold a ton of Hanky Pankys to other people, too. Not that I really had to try that hard: Beyond my basic "these are all I wear now!" sales pitch, they looked irresistible—like fat delicious candies all toppled together in a clear container. And at only $20 a pop, they were a steal compared to the rest of the store's pricey wares. As you can probably guess, most of the commission from those sales directly benefited my own lingerie drawer.

Yet, despite all those years I spent spouting the Hanky Panky gospel in lower Manhattan, I never realized that the entire underwear enterprise was simply a train ride away. The brand's Queens-based factory is the nerve-center for all its operations and where the majority of garment production happens. Last week, company CEO Lida Orzeck, select members of her team and her dog Henree—who is also Chairman of the Hanky Panky board—were kind enough to give me a full-on Willy Wonka-style tour of the building and step-by-step breakdown of how those delicate camis, underwear and sleep get made.

Click through the slideshow below to see for a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Hanky Panky and visit Hankypanky.com to shop its full line.

all photography by Dana Davenport

Pick the Styles and Print the Patterns

Here I am (in the peach) with Lida. Through careful data analysis, experts choose which styles they think underwear aficionados would like to buy next. Each one is then printed as a pattern on huge pieces of paper and sent to the cutting room.

"The 48-11 and the 49-11 thong is our most popular style," Lida told me. "It's the world's most comfortable thong!"


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